SS 251 – Do Genes Really Affect Your Weight?

Episode 251 Show Notes

Grant and Heavey talk about genetics and how it affects your ability to lose fat. Do genes really play a role in how fat you are or in your ability to lose fat? Here’s a study that might just surprise you! Also, this is Week 3 of the Macallan 12 series and if sherry is your thing, check out these different distilleries from Speyside.


[01:50] Poor Eating Causes Blindness


Grant presents an article published on a health journal in the UK about a 17-year-old boy who went blind from a limited diet, eating chips and crisps.


He first complained of being tired and having problems with his blood tests when he was 12 years old where they saw low levels of Vitamin B12. He was given Vitamin B12 supplementation but it got worse as he never changed his diet. 


Eventually, his fussy eating worsened his condition. He had Vitamin B12 deficiency that affected his optic nerve resulting in permanent blindness.


The major takeaway here is that the lack of a varied diet is bad for you. Another warning for vegetarians who have unique nutritional needs because they miss out on a lot of different vitamins and minerals. This includes Vit. B12 that is mostly found in meat products. 


If you keep a really strict and limited diet, you might be missing out on things. But just because you’re not a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’re not missing out on certain nutrients. 


Whether the blindness was directly linked to Vit. B12 deficiency, the doctor clarified that it’s rather potentially the cause, not necessarily the main reason. He further added that there could have been a genetic component that hadn’t been looked at.


[06:55] Genetics and Fat Loss


There’s a notion that people are overweight or underweight based upon their genetics. Some people feel like they don’t have a choice and it’s something they’re born with.


People have assumed that we’ve got genetics all figured out. There are genetic tests out there that tell you what diet to eat or what exercise program you should do based upon your genes. But that’s all crap!


Well, this is a seed of an idea where the future could be incredible. But where we are in the science today is so rudimentary that you shouldn’t be using that as the basis for your approach.


Very rarely is there just one set of genes that dictates a body’s response to something. There are so many factors that go into this. It’s never going to be cut-and-dry. It’s always going to be probability-based. 


There are numerous genes connected with the level of body fatness but the magnitude really hasn’t been quantified until now.


[10:00] Study on Measuring Body Fatness


Authors of a certain study looked at 25 nucleotide variants with body fat. They measured how well those five nucleotide variants predicted weight change across a group of nearly 1,000 dieting individuals. 


The participants were all over 18 years old. They were recruited as part of a program when they visited a lipid clinic. Their BMIs were between 25 and 40. There was also a control group with normal BMIs from the same clinic.


The subjects received dietary counseling as part of this program. They were instructed to increase food intake, vegetables, nuts, lean meat, and fish and minimize processed meat, soft drinks, and alcohol.


They were also encouraged to increase their physical activity level. Additionally, these guidelines weren’t rigidly enforced so it was more of a free-living type of environment.


After the first year, the group averaged a 1.1% decrease in BMI. So it wasn’t a massive body composition change. But considering how it was less rigidly enforced under normal, free-living conditions, they did lose weight.


They looked at the effect of the 25 nucleotides on one’s ability to lose weight across those thousand people to see how that affected the numbers. If you have these genes coded for higher levels of body fat, maybe you lost less. And if you didn’t, then you’d probably lost more. The researchers wanted to find out as to what degree of the amount of fat loss could they connect with these 25 primary genes.


[12:32] The Results


Genetics accounted for 2.4% of weight change variants at the one-year follow up and only 1.6% of weight change at the end of the follow-up period over five years. Hence, there is clearly a connection between genes and level of body fat but it’s not that much.  


They essentially stratified the group to make sure the people coming in weren’t more likely to have genes coded on the top end of the obesity spectrum. In fact, what they found to be the largest connection with total weight change was baseline weight at check-in apparently since they had more to lose.


These people who went to the lipid clinic were being treated for some sort of lipid-related conditions, which is obviously a limitation in the study. They were very likely being treated with medications and standard protocols as part of treatment. So that may skew the results to some degree, but even the controlled group with normal BMIs was being treated in the same way. 


[15:44] The Key Takeaways


We should not ever use genetics as an excuse for not putting in the right amount of effort or making the right choices. However, people often believe that there’s a genetic component to obesity. We see family lines of people being overweight and Heavey is curious whether this has to do with genetics or lifestyle. 

The environment affects your level of fitness and leanness and there’s a huge familial component to your habits relative to your environment. Grant makes a valid point that your lifestyle choices could add up over time. 

Heavey just wanted to point out the limitations of the study. One is the lipid clinic. Then we’re only looking at a handful of genes. Although they have the largest magnitude connection with body weight, we’re still looking at only 25 of them. So there could be many other factors that were being overlooked here. Also, the diet wasn’t rigidly enforced.

[19:35] The Whiskey Series: Week 3 of the Macallan 12 


During the first week of the Macallan series, Grant and Heavey introduced the bottle. Then the second week covered the distillery. This week, they talk more about Speyside, the region where Macallan is from.


Speyside is the biggest whiskey distilling region of Scotland. Despite the geography being small, the amount that it distills is huge. In fact, four of the top 5 bottles are from Speyside. 


Speyside is known for two very different things. One is the heavy sherry influence. Another popular distillery is Aberlour located in Speyside. They make A’bunadh, which is another really popular heavily sherried Scotch similar to the Macallan 12.


The other part of Speyside would be the higher cellars like the Glenlivet and Glenfiddich which are known for being light, grassy, easy-to-drink. 


Speyside is known for this dichotomy. Some are grassy and light while some are heavily sherried. Despite the different ways scotch is made in different regions, Speyside only does one of these two things. 


[23:00] Speyside Distilleries to Try


If you don’t like peat, you’d be safe going with Speyside. Other popular distilleries from Speyside that you can check out include:

  • Balvenie
  • Cragganmore
  • Dalwhinnie (exemplifies the grassy, sour apple taste)
  • Glenfarclas (more on the sherried side and more affordable)
  • Glenlivet
  • Glenfiddich
  • Strathmill
  • Strathisla
  • Tomintoul


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